Afghanistan is sometimes touted as the U.S. administration’s one quasi-successful venture in nation building. But a recent traffic accident involving a U.S. military vehicle sparked a deadly outbreak of anti-American violence in Kabul, considered the worst since the Taleban were evicted in 2001. And area analysts are alarmed by a stronger than expected Taleban military revival, a lengthening list of Afghan civilians killed in American military operations, and a badly flawed opium eradication program.
Nabi Misdaq, Afghan journalist and author of Afghanistan: Political Frailty and Foreign Interference, says he thinks unfulfilled expectations are at the base of the recent violence and of anti-American sentiment. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Misdaq says that Afghans thought that, with the removal of the Taleban, major reconstruction and reconciliation would take place and the warlords and drug lords would be brought to justice. But 5 years later, people see that “none of this has been achieved.” And that’s how a minor traffic accident could spark violent anti-American demonstrations in Kabul.
Pakistani journalist Husain Haqqani says he thinks Afghan impatience has less to do with the U.S. military presence than with the fact that other aspects of nation building have not yet been given the same kind of attention that Washington gives to security matters. He says Afghans generally have the view, “You came to help us and you got rid of the Taleban. Thank you very much. Now, go!” Many Afghans are also frustrated with President Hamid Karzai who they think should stand up to the Americans. Mr. Haqqani suggests that the current crisis is the result of Washington’s turning its attention away from Afghanistan – and towards Iraq – before the Afghan situation could be stabilized.
According to Nabi Misdaq, Washington needs to work with the Karzai government to formulate a mutually satisfactory plan for nation building and determine what happened to the billions of aid dollars that have produced little beyond a “road from Kabul to Kandahar.” Mr. Misdaq says it is with electricity, sanitation, clinics, hospitals, and bridges that “you win the hearts and minds of the people.” In addition, Husain Haqqani says, the United States needs to commit more troops and resources to prevent the Taleban from reorganizing and to counter the impression that Afghanistan is “falling apart.”
British journalist and United Nations reporter Ian Williams says that coalition – and especially U.S. – forces cannot afford to pull out of Afghanistan without finishing the job of rebuilding. What would be most helpful, Mr. Williams says, is to put troops in the mountains to “clear the threat from the Taleban” and to “control the warlords,” making it clear that President Karzai is the elected president and that the coalition will enforce his authority. All the journalists agree that the job will be daunting, but the consequences of failure could be catastrophic.
To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.